Throwback Thursday: Chicago Is Planned & Recognized

August 4th, 1830 is a day regarded by Historians in Illinois as the day Chicago was recognized. Given Chicago’s location by the Great Lakes, financiers looked at the land as an opportunity for a transportation hub. The Illinois legislature appointed James Thompson to survey and plat the town which had a population of about 100 people. He laid out the town for Canal Commissioners in preparation for the sale of lots to finance a proposed Illinois and Michigan Canal; its first sales on Sept. 4, 1830. The filing of the plans marked the first recognition of the municipality of Chicago.

James Thompson plat of Chicago

Originally the area was inhabited by native Algonquian people including the Mascouten and Miami. The name Chicago came from a French version of the native word Shikaakwa, or Stinky Onion, due to wild garlic growing abundandlty in the area. The first known reference of the area of Chicago came in a memoir from 1679 by Robert De LaSalle, noting the abundance of Chicagoua. Chicago’s first permanent, non-native settler is a black man that goes by the name of Jean Baptiste Point Du Sable and regarded as the founder of Chicago. The farm he built at the mouth of the Chicago River near Lake Michigan is now a national historical landmark at what is now 401 N Michigan Ave, Pioneer Court.

On August 12th, 1833 the Town of Chicago was established with a population of 350. One year later the first Schooner named the Illinois from New York enters the harbor, marking Great Lakes trade relationship between the two booming cities. Rich farmlands attracted many Yankee settlers that overnight created a city through real estate and trade. The city quickly grew demanding warehouse, rails and dock yards to be built for transportation and trade. By 1850’s over 30 rail lines entered the city making Chicago the transportation hub of the United States. Chicago was granted a city charter by the state of Illinois on March 4, 1837 and the city of Chicago was born with over 4,000 to its population.

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Artist Of The Week: Blaqrock Reigns In A New Era With Their New Single Mass Appeal

Ever since releasing their hit EP NO LOVE FOR BLAQKID back in 2018, Chicago rap-rock band Blaqrock have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with on the local scene. Having performed at some of the biggest indie venues in the city, Metro and Cubby Bear just to name a couple, this band has garnered as much clout as anyone. And what is even more impressive is how they have done it in such a short time span.

Back on August 2 Blaqrock closed the door on the NO LOVE FOR BLAQKID era with the release of their new single MASS APPEAL. This gem of a track possesses the same passion and energy as the material on their debut EP, except here everything is turned up a notch. In between the explosive cohesiveness of the rhythm section and lead singer, Gardner McFadden‘s feverishly intense vocal performance, Blaqrock has shown a great deal of growth and progression.

The passion and energy I spoke on before translated into an unbelievable live set at the MASS APPEAL single release party back on August 1 at HVAC Pub. Though it was a Thursday night and they did not go on until almost midnight, the venue was packed full of Blaqrock enthusiasts anxiously awaiting the arrival of their new single. There was a certain energy in the air and they tapped into it from the very beginning of their set.

Right around midnight with the crowd standing shoulder to shoulder in eager anticipation, drummer Danny Delgado let it rip on the opening drum hits to MASS APPEAL. What took place over the next four-plus minutes can only be described as magical. Every drum hit from Danny Delgado‘s kit was jaw-crushing. Every note from Myles Bacon‘s guitar was a searing streak of light penetrating your soul. Austen Goebel‘s poignant bass playing was a gentle staccato hum you can feel at the bottom of your feet. And of course, Gardner McFadden’s frenetic vocals strike you to the core to the point of numbness.

Between the intensity of Blaqrock’s performance and how the crowd reacted, the noise levels at HVAC bordered on deafening. There are not too many artists who can accomplish that on a random after hours show on a hot, muggy August night but Blaqrock showed that they are more than capable. For this reason, if you follow the Chicago scene, then I can guarantee you that Blaqrock is an artist you most certainly will not want to sleep on.

“Mass Appeal” is now available on all platforms.

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Throwback Thursday: Martin Luther King Jr. Stoned During Chicago March.

On August 5th 1966 Martin Luther King Jr., during the fair housing protests in Marquette Park, is met with 700 angry white protesters and gets struck by a brick.

MLK was in Chicago that day advocating with his demonstrators that this leasing office on 63rd Street in the South Side sell properties on a non-discriminatory basis in the mostly white Chicago Lawn neighborhood. Bricks and bottles thrown, racial slurs hurled, pushing, shoving, cops in-between King, his demonstrators and the large white crowd from Chicago’s local south side. At least 30 people were injured and 40 were arrested. Apparently after this whole ordeal King was unafraid and un-shaken stating, “All in a day’s work“.

MLK Jr. ducks as he is struck by a brick as aids rush to prevent another attack.

Post 1964 America with the signing of the Civil Rights Act was hopeful for the future of its minority citizens. However the ghettoes in northern cities were still quite affected and mandated by Jim Crow laws. King even promoted this issue by moving into a Chicago apartment in 1966 infested with rats and roaches. This was ideally to expose the segregated housing and redlining issues that were designed against blacks and minorities largely prevalent in major American cities, especially Chicago.

Segregated cities are still an issue today, albeit laws and ordinances against such civil illnesses. Today let us remember that MLK Jr. was working tirelessly to improve the equity and lifestyles of black Americans and all those that shared in his vision of peace and unity.

Martin Luther King during a rally in Chicagos Soldier Field July 10, 1966, kicking off the Chicago Freedom Movement.

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Woman Crush Wednesday: Nicole Amine

AJ Abelman Photography

Detroit and Chicago have a lot in common when it comes to music, most significantly through techno and house music origins. Today we recognize our connection through the talents of an ambitious blues player residing in Chicago. Coming from our neighbors across Lake Michigan, Nicole Amine establishes her sound in Chicago after growing up on the sounds of Motown, Soul and Rock and Roll music. Originally studying at Columbia College to earn a degree in vocal performance, like the Rolling Stones, she began to explore her love for Chicago Blues music, which turns out to become a heavy influence in her own.

Starting out releasing cover tracks from artists like the Temptations and Amy Winehouse especially, giving justice to a very talented voice; Nicole’s voice is just as strong. Following up with a couple of demos, shortly after as she gets more comfortable as an artist. Working her way through solo performances Nicole organizes a band and really gets the fire starting, performing in random venues in Chicago. In a short period of time this student & listener of music establishes a foundation and presence in Chicago’s local music scene.

After finding her band and perfecting her sound she debuts with her single WINE SONG, giving us a real glimpse of Nicole’s creativity. Following WING SONG she comes up with NEED THAT SOUND and TRAPPED, both can stand on their own as well. Reaching further Nicole pursues bigger spotlights from the stage and enters in NPR Tiny Desk contest and had a performance on Sofar Chicago. Her ambition to be her best self through vocal education, challenging herself onto bigger stages with original singing, songwriting and guitar playing lands her at this weeks spotlight for Woman Crush Wednesday. You can expect more new music from her in 2020 so follow her progress in the links below!

Nicole Amine | Soudcloud | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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Header Photo AJ Abelman Photography

Artist Of The Week: Ajani Jones Embodies Growth On His Debut Album Dragonfly

The dragonfly, in almost every part of the world symbolizes change and change in the perspective of self realization; and the kind of change that has its source in mental and emotional maturity and the understanding of the deeper meaning of life.

According to dragonfly-site.com, the Dragonfly serves as a metaphor for change and self-realization.

Bring in south-side MC Ajani Jones, whose debut album of the same name embodies these sentiments to a T. Released on July 16, DRAGONFLY is a 13-track, 47-minute essay on growth, adaptation and personal evolution. The final product is the journey that encompasses those three aforementioned, which result in Jones coming to a full actualization of who he is as an artist and human.

The opening track, JANI’S INTRO, kicks off with Ajani Jones conversing with his 11-year-old self, asking what this younger version of himself likes to do for fun. Jones looks back on a delicate time in his life which consisted of playing with roadblocks and hanging out with his cousins. There is a sense of innocence that little Ajani brings in this skit — a sense of purity that is yet to be tainted by the harsh realities of the outside world. As the conceptual arc of Dragonfly develops further, the innocence portrayed in the opening skit is threatened more and more.

Where Ajani Jones shines most on this album is how he grows from the obstacles that stand in his way. On DRAGONS he confronts the terrifying notion of his cousin being recruited by a gang. His flow and delivery hold the sense of urgency that comes with someone being under siege for the first time, often not knowing how to react. However Jones does not fold here; he fends off the temptation associated with his surroundings, keeping his head afloat and his feet planted firmly on the right path.

On LUCID, which pops up in the middle of the track list, Jones goes into detail about a call he received from his mother late one night while he was at the studio. After checking his bank account she was left wondering how Jones would pull through while lacking funds. Jones however appears calm and collected despite the dire circumstances, confident he will pull through once again. As the second leg of the album progresses, the obstacles only continue to pile up.

PLUTO sees Jones and his mother dealing with their house being foreclosed on, as well as loved ones he has lost due to Chicago’s gun violence. On the closing track TIME FLIES, Jones confronts how lost he felt as a kid searching for a god to believe. He also touches on the fractured relationship between the police and the black community. Despite closing out on a somewhat somber note, the underlying notion that Jones has made becomes abundantly clear. He has refused to succumb to all of the obstacles that have stood before him, instead using them as periods of intense personal growth.

Aside from the well fleshed-out, conceptual arc of the album, the beats and lyrics are noteworthy by themselves. Lyrically Jones displays loads of technical skill on every song here. His wordplay is sharp and the pictures he paints holds a quality of vividness that so few MC’s have. His flow and delivery are equally as gripping as he delivers his verses with a robust sense of urgency. The instrumentals shine as well, ranging from bleak and dreary sounding to jazzy and laid-back. Jones did a great job of picking beats that fit the mood he was in on a given track.

On the beginning of DRAGONFLY, Ajani Jones is an 11-year-old kid unaware of the cold, harsh truths that have yet to invite themselves into his life. What comes after is the battle to either grow within himself, or fall victim to the obstacles that are constantly standing in his way. Jones not only chose to grow, he chose to grow triumphantly. How he conceptually realizes that over the course of an album is a true testament to that. That sentiment in combination with the moody production and lyrical dexterity from Jones himself makes for a great album. That is why Ajani Jones is this week’s Artist Of The Week.

Ajani Jones | Soundcloud | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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Artist Of The Week: Wilhelm Duke Plays To His Strengths On His New Single “Want Smoke”

One of the things I love most about Ever Evolved is the diversity between all of the artists in the collective. This week’s Artist Of The Week goes to a musician who brings a whole new element to the collective and that would be rapper Wilhelm Duke. A wordsmith with loads of technical skill, Duke peppers his verses with all types of different flow patterns and unique deliveries. He is an artist who brings something new to every track he lands on, always keeping the listener on their toes. He exudes a sly sense of confidence in his voice as he demonstrates a high level of command on the microphone.

All of these strengths come through on his new single WANT SMOKE. Produced by Joey Bandino, the instrumental is bleak and menacing. The bass here is grumbling and authoritative while the percussion is offbeat and hard-hitting. Though minimalistic in scope, Bandino does a wonderful job of creating a dark atmosphere. Duke’s lyricism fits the mood of the instrumental to a T. He explores themes of depression and loss of hope. He also shows a rich sense of variety in his wordplay as his lines range from being animated and funny to witty and braggadocios.

His vocal performance also stands out. Though just 26, Duke has the confidence of a seasoned veteran as he sounds like someone 15 years his senior. His delivery is weighty yet easy-going as he weaves together a myriad of flows and lyrical concepts throughout the track’s duration. There is a lot going on here but Duke makes it look effortless.

At just 1:50 in length, WANT SMOKE is a grimy, lyrical trap banger. This track would work really well either as a stand alone single or as part of a project. To me this track captures the essence of who Wilhelm Duke is as an artist and MC, as he shows a great deal of technical skill, easygoing charisma and rich imagery on this track.

Wilhelm Duke | Soundcloud | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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Louis The Childs Big Time Sound

Notorious for anthemic songs and sing along tunes Louis The Child seems to have an endless supply of hits! They have a natural ability to connect with their audience through their music and control crowds. They set the vibe and people follow. They just know what people want to feel and hear and transmute it to uplifting energetically intoxicating music! The proof is in songs like LAST TO LEAVE & RIGHT TO IT, ALL NIGHT with Chance the Rapper, WEEKEND with Icona Pop, BETTER NOT from their KIDS AT PLAY EP and so much more.

Hard enough to choose a favorite among their playlist and they just made it harder with a few new additions! The beauty of Louis the Child song is that they cover a range of genres, energy and emotion. As much as they have anthemic tunes they have just as much tracks to lay back to and day dream to. Tracks like GO, SLOW DOWN LOVE, SAVE ME FROM MYSELF with Big Gigantic and their recent remix of Elohim‘s THE WAVE can get you in a zone of your own.

Among Louis the Childs recent releases you can get a mix of both the excitement and the impassioned. Earlier they released another remix, this time they chose Death Cab For A Cutie to remix, taking I DREAMT WE SPOKE AGAIN and turned it into a dreamy future bass track. More recently they pop out another original to move your feet and jump to. BIG TIME is another one of those anthemic beats; blaring sounds, melodic synth basslines and uplifting energy. Leaving the vocals aside for this one, it is a perfect song to dance and enjoy the moment to; As are many of Louis the Child’s tracks!

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Throwback Thursday: Happy Birthday to Verdine White; Long Time Bassist of Earth, Wind and Fire.

The year is 1951 on the 25th of July. The bassist Verdine White, who is most known for playing with Earth, Wind, and Fire, was born in Chicago Illinois. Verdine White is ranked as being the no. 27th all time bass player by Bass Player’s List of the 100 Greatest Bass Players of All Time. He started playing with Earth, Wind, and Fire at the age of seventeen due to his older brother Maurice White being the founder, main record producer, and co-lead singer. Today his net worth is over 10 million dollars. These are the types of success stories that define Chicago music and culture in history.

In an interview with Microphone Check with Frannie and Ali, Verdine White got to sit down with the platform to give a little insight into the history of himself and the great band that became Earth, Wind, and Fire. His older brother Maurice and Ramsey Lewis originally were going to name the band Salty Peppers (Salt N Peppa ended up being a thing years later ironically enough) until Maurice decided to name the band after his astrological chart which did not contain the element water. It only had earth, air, and fire; Maurice decided to rename air to wind. And thus a legendary band is born.

According to Verdine White his older brother Maurice instilled a foundational sound and musicality in the group through his extensive study of Miles Davis and John Coltrane. He credits Maurice with his and the entire bands legacy and success. Verdine White’s father was a saxophonist and a drummer by passion and a doctor by trade. He instilled an attitude of strict proper musicianship in his sons according to Verdine. Maurice was ten years older than Verdine elder and the two technically did not start playing together till they were out in California.

Verdine says Maurice was always encouraging and always took him seriously although, Verdine was not ready to keep up with his brother for years. One day Maurice told Verdine, “I need you at the studio in case the bass player doesn’t show up“. Even though the bass player did show up that day, the energy that Maurice wanted to give Verdine and uplift his little brother as a musician was definitely there! Even though it took years for Verdine White to end up playing with his beloved brother, that is now past on, from age ten onward Verdine’s life has been nothing but music.

It was interesting to read about his experiences in Chicago through the 60’s, according to him music related things were happening constantly. Whether Verdine was practicing to keep up with his brothers and father, attending shows with his mother, putting on events for Maurice, or just studying and learning from his older contemporaries, Verdine was always entrenched within the culture of Chicago music. And to me the most awesome fact is that, according to Verdine, he was completely sober and focused through his teen years due to what was required of him as a musician. He did not party, he did not do drugs, there was only one thing he had to do back then and that was play music. Happy birthday to a real Chicago legend, Verdine White of Earth, Wind, and Fire!

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BeatrixKiddo: Woman Crush Wednesday

Who has been putting in the work other than Emily Ramirez aka BeatrixKiddo, the fierce hard spitting fatale with a style reminiscent of early Eminem or Da Brat! She has dropped three visuals this year already, two of her own records, shot by CVO Films. She dropped STOGIE in mid January and she released BITCHES BE MAD in May. STOGIE is a well paced lyrical turn up track about how she gets down with the cannabis culture, while BITCHES BE MAD is about well, certain people being quite mad.

Both of these projects are a great display of her vocal prowess and edge she has over an instrumental. She is completely unique while leaving the listener in a position to desire more; her music, sound and style demands an increase in content. She also was featured on the Bombay Boyz record AFTER YOU, produced by Rhymster and Frekwenzy, which dropped in the middle of March. Her verse on that record hits hard but was still delivered with a smooth tone giving the track’s mix a lush blend. Its refreshing and inspiring to see more and more women being consistent in the Chicago scene with producing music.

Most recently BeatrixKiddo dropped her single Titled BACK AT IT. She goes bar for bar letting you know what she is capable of while detailing some of the admirable attributes of the Ever Evolved cohorts and affiliates. You can find this new single of hers on Spotify and Apple Music. As we continue to highlight and shine attention upon women in the scene that are simply put, killing it let us remember emcees like BeatrixKiddo. Emcees that are unafraid to portray a sort of feminine heroism that the hip hop industry largely ignores.

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Artist Of The Week: RhymSter

Building his way to the living legend title, he is well known in many underground Chicago hip hop circles. RhymSter has been making a big name for himself in Chicago and it is due to his determination from a young age to be one of the best emcees. Having left his imprint on the 606 Chicago nights at Subterranean and open mics across the board with his freestyle talent, this young emcee quickly got connected with the right people and follows through.

Connecting with the right people plays a big role in an artists success and RhymSter can identify these people with ease! Knowing that, the Chicago emcee got himself to open for popular artists like Dave East and Curren$y, twice. Right now actually, he awaits to open up for the iconic Method Man and Redman this August at Joes in Rosemont. Through his network RhymSter also finds opportunities to collaborate with talented artists and promoters in and out of state.

Networking not only as an artist emcee, RhymSter also helps run a music studio and sets up events as one of the main partners under Ever Evolved. Through this platform he not only invites himself to work with other artists, promoters and venue owners, but he gets to help influence the scene. With over dozens of artists in his contact list through either recording, producing for or collaborating with, he easily puts together local artists, djs and hosts to express their talents on stage! Artists from Los Angeles, Omaha, St. Louis, New York and Michigan, to name a few, have worked with RhymSter and Ever Evolved in either Chicago or their own hometowns, giving one another opportunities for their talents to be seen and heard.

Taking that knowledge RhymSter uses it to perfect his own craft and promote himself efficiently. All the experiences and people he has met has turned growth into quality! Allowing him to release music videos, interviews, singles, EP’s and LPS, beats and so on. If there is any question as to who this artist is the answers are not hard to find. The best way to know him is through his music as he tells it how it is and what made him who he is, through his lyricism.

Between recording artists, producing music, planning events and connecting with promoters, visual artists, designers, studio collectives and businesses, RhymSter still finds time to speak his peace. With a handful of hit singles and music videos, an album and an EP, there is plenty of content for you to get familiar with. Get familiar with why many artists new and old in Chicago look up to and respect RhymSter. From his freestyle flow and writing, to his ideas and business savvy, it is all raw, authentic and unique.

Expressing quite a bit of activity this year from the studio, RhymSter has released music videos animated by Neorevivalist, his PURE NOON EP with Edmur Quinn and a remix of GHOST. Also being introduced to the EDM community, RhymSter collaborated with Chicago duo Ayoo on their hit single TIMELINE that was released under Artist Intelligence Agency record label last month in June. Most recently he released an original beat with Frekwenzy. As a distorted RhymSter verses his way though a sinister beat and Rodneys Dangerfield sound bites, he again takes on another creative direction with DANGERFIELD. Try and figure out this mans next move you cannot!

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